Health Kentucky Politics

Hundreds of people gathered outside the state Capitol to protest Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus-related executive orders as the state Supreme Court heard arguments over the restrictions inside on Thursday.

Demonstrators from across the state—most of them not wearing masks, some carrying guns—questioned the seriousness of the virus, or whether it exists at all. Some voiced theories that the virus was not real or part of a political conspiracy.

Charlotte Gagnon, a 64 year-old from Hopkinsville who attended the protest with the assistance of a walker, said she attended because she doesn’t want to wear a mask.

“I don’t think they have the right to tell us what we can do, it’s our constitutional right. As long as we’re not doing nothing wrong, we’re obeying the laws,” Gagnon said.

Anti-Mask protesterRyland Barton | wfpl.org

Charlotte Gagnon, of Hopkinsville, protests in Frankfort, saying she doesn’t want to wear a mask.

Gagnon said she thought that coronavirus was a “farce” created by Democrats trying to make President Donald Trump look bad.

“When they couldn’t impeach Trump, they brought this to cause trouble for him,” Gagnon said.

Inside, the state Supreme Court heard arguments over the constitutionality of Beshear’s executive orders that have restricted businesses, crowd sizes and required most people to wear masks in public places.

Republican Attorney General Daniel Cameron brought that lawsuit, arguing that Beshear’s emergency powers don’t allow him to issue such restrictions and that he should have gone through the Republican-led legislature.

But outside, some protesters said that the restrictions shouldn’t be in place at all because the deadliness of the virus is overblown.

“Overblown, absolutely,” said Nancy Rasche, of Paducah.

“If it were as deadly and widespread as has been promoted by the media, then why aren’t we hearing about the people in Kroger and Walmart and Home Depot dropping like flies? I need to see those numbers.”

Rasche cited the recent CDC report showing that 94% of people who had died from coronavirus also had a co-morbid condition as a reason she believes the virus isn’t as serious as made out by health experts.

This is an argument that has been echoed by Kentucky Republican lawmakers challenging Beshear’s coronavirus restrictions, even though people can live for years with chronic conditions.

Anti-Mask protesterRyland Barton | wfpl.org

Angie Clemons, of Lexington, holds a sign at protest against Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus restrictions.

Angie Clemons, of Lexington, said she believes that the virus is real, but that restrictions are harming the development of children. She said that older people and those at risk of contracting the virus should quarantine.

“They should’ve been the ones to stay at home, not all of us you know? It should be our choice and our choice not to harm other people, but we should’ve been still allowed our freedom,” Clemons said.

Organizers of the protest said they would return for a rally at the Capitol in October.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.